Chronic Illness: Tips for Managing While Travel Nursing

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By Miles Oliver

January 19, 2023

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Tips for Managing Chronic Illness While Travel Nursing

Travel nurses deserve all the praise in the world. Considering the physically and mentally demanding nature of the work, it’s incredible how they can care for others the way they do.

Those managing a chronic illness while navigating a travel nursing career are even more deserving of praise. Chronic diseases are complicated to deal with on their own. Add a demanding job like nursing and the difficulty multiplies. Still, it’s doable.

First, know what’s available to you through your health insurance. Understand the resources available, how much they’ll cost, and the medical help you can get as you travel to different cities, states, or countries. Then, implement these three tips. 

Create a Physical Health Routine

Travel nurses are always on the go. Because of this, it can be hard to maintain a routine that caters to your physical health. But by neglecting your physical health, your chronic illness can worsen.

Creating and sticking to a physical health routine will help. First, prioritize your nutrition. It’s easy to get sucked into the fast food, junk food diet while on assignment. But a diet like this can exacerbate symptoms if you’re living with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or GERD.

Instead, adopt a low-residue diet or one with limited fiber intake to help reduce symptoms.

Whatever diet you decide to embrace, meal prepping can help ensure you stick to it and aren’t enticed by unhealthy food choices.

Next, get some exercise. Exercise not only helps keep your physical body healthy, but it can relieve stress and keep you sharp mentally, both of which are critical in travel nursing. It’s not so much about what you do. It’s how consistent you are with it.

So, whether it’s a 10-minute workout per day, a walk every other day, or the gym twice a week, choose something you enjoy and can remain consistent with, despite your hectic schedule as a travel nurse.

Finally, get on a regular sleep schedule. One of the worst things you can do for a chronic illness is not getting the rest you need. Healing and recovery happen during sleep. Allow your body the opportunity to experience this so that you can better work and live with your chronic illness.

Embrace Mental Health Care

Nurse.org recently prepared a State of Nursing report that revealed: “87% of nurses feel burnt out, and 83% feel their mental health has suffered.” Poor mental health and burnout can make managing a chronic illness even more challenging. It can also make it hard to be consistent with treatment.

So, embrace mental health care as you manage your chronic illness. Take note of how you are mentally throughout your journey with your chronic disease. Get firm diagnoses from a mental health care professional, if you can, to ensure you’re treating symptoms adequately.

If you don’t want to go the therapy or counseling route, you can tend to your mental health in these ways:

  • Take a vacation 
  • Recite daily affirmations
  • Implement a self-care routine
  • Discover new hobbies and passions
  • Take mental breaks whenever needed
  • Read books related to mental health
  • Adopt an inherently positive mindset

Develop a Better Relationship With Yourself

“Listen to your body.” How often have you heard or read this advice when seeking guidance for managing your chronic illness? Better yet, how often have you given this advice in your nursing duties?

As well-intentioned as this suggestion is, it’s not as helpful as one might think for someone managing a chronic illness. This is because aches and pains are often a daily occurrence, and not everyone should be met with worry, panic, or a trip to the emergency room. 

That said, listening to your body is still important to ensure you seek more serious help when warranted. So what do you do? Develop a better relationship with yourself and a more substantial familiarity with your body so that you can trust what you’re “listening” to and your decisions after that.

To help you cope with how hard it can be to “listen to your body” and develop this robust relationship with yourself, try the following:

  • Attend therapy regularly
  • Practice self-compassion and mindfulness activities
  • Join a community of travel nurses navigating a chronic illness
  • Refer to how things have fared in the past when difficult symptoms flare
  • Focus on positive outcomes and what you can control in your day-to-day
  • Journal about your symptoms, what triggers them, how you feel in certain situations, and your overall journey with your chronic illness

Travel nursing is physically and mentally demanding without a chronic illness. But with one, it can be even more taxing. Put the tips above to work to manage your chronic disease healthily and ensure it doesn’t disrupt your duties as a traveling nurse.

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.

If you are a new traveler or looking into becoming a Travel Nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step by Step

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